Our First Christmas: New Recipes and New Memories

Holiday dinner success.

Holiday dinner success.

After returning from our lovely visit in Nebraska (another blog I need to post), Mr. Speedy and I hosted our first formal family dinner with my family.

I could barely contain my excitement. Our first time hosting Christmas! Our first Christmas in our new home! Our first time cooking a formal feast! Our first time using the fine china!

If you have hosted a meal, I am sure you felt the pang of panic the day before as you prepared everything. The grocery list, how many extra chairs are needed, what type of linen should be used, and how many bottles on wine should be bought. The key to this whole process I found was actually planning the meal and preparing ahead of time, rather than day of the event.

Kind of like planning the wedding- get as much done ahead of time, and it’ll be smooth sailing.

The day before, the following was done:

  • Set-up extra seating
  • Plan out meal, go grocery shopping
  • Chop and slice all ingredients, set aside
  • Measure out dry ingredients, set aside
  • Bake all desserts (if possible), set aside
  • Prepare all table linen, menus, etc.

That last bullet – which is totally not necessary unless you are a decorating freak like me – is something that I went a little crazy on. For Christmas, Mr. Speedy bought me a Prima Press Alphabet Stamp set. AMAZING GIFT. Little did he know how far his $20 present went because I got it in my head to handstamp out EVERYTHING. Name cards, menus, bar list, dessert labels, and appetizers. I think I stamped for about 3 hours straight and had ink all over myself, but it was SO worth the effort. They looked simply fantastic:

Menus and name cards.

Menus and name cards.

The bar list. Come and drink.

The bar list. Come and drink.

Dessert bar.

Dessert bar.

Snacks!

Snacks!

Another little extra I found for only $1 at Michaels, were Christmas themed cupcake toppers and cocktail napkins. How awesome are these??

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

Our new coasters and the napkins!

Our new coasters and the napkins!

Moving on, I also wanted to FINALLY use some lovely gifts we got from our Nebraska bridal shower. Our gold plate chargers and water pitcher were both gifts from Mr. Speedy’s mother and were perfect. All the fine china was used for the first time, a family heirloom from my Nonna. The candelabra was a gift from my parents. How exciting it was to mix items from all over, to create a formal atmosphere:

Love this water pitcher!

Love this water pitcher!

DONT WORRY - NO ONE GOT BURNT.

DONT WORRY – NO ONE GOT BURNT.

I really like Pirate's face.

I really like Pirate’s face.

So…..

What did I cook???

All recipe are SUPER EASY (I promise) and very tasty. Some recipes are pre-made others are made from scratch. Enjoy:

GLAZED HAM

So much ham.

So much ham.

This ham is super easy – it is pre-cooked and pre-glazed from the store. Although this may seem like cheating, it is not. Your guests will never know and you can tell them that you actually went out and hand-picked the pig that is now on the table and watch their mouths drop. To heat this up, wrap it up in foil and put in in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1.5 hours. So juicy and tasty.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

So tasty.

So tasty.

Just like the ham, this was a pre-made soup. All I did was pour it into a saucepan and heat up. If you are really ambitious, then feel free to make it from scratch. DON’T JUDGE ME FOR SERVING THIS.

BALSAMIC CRANBERRY BRUSSEL SPROUTS

These were simply delicious.

These were simply delicious.

(Makes 8 servings)

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3 pounds of brussel sprouts
olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup dried cranberries

  1. First, make the balsamic glaze. You can do this early in the morning, and set it aside for later.
  2. Pour vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens a bit (might need to add sugar).
  4. Remove it and set aside.
  5. Rinse sprouts and slice them in half (I did this the day before).
  6. Spread them in a single layer on baking sheets.
  7. Using a brush, brush olive oil over them all and then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Roast for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until they are crisp and have some brown leaves.
  9. Pile them on a large serving tray, sprinkle the dried cranberries all over the top.
  10. Slowly pour the balsamic glaze all over.
  11. SERVE!

GARLIC (ROSEMARY) ROASTED POTOATOES

These are tiny but tasty!

These are tiny but tasty!

Serves 12

6 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tbl. rosemary, minced
1 stick of butter
6 pounds of fingerlings potatoes (assorted colors), keep skin on but wash
salt and pepper
2 Tbl. fresh parsley, minced

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mince the garlic , rosemary, parsley – keeping them all separate. (I did this the day before).
  3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, then add rosemary and garlic.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Arrange potatoes on baking sheet and coat with butter mixture.
  6. Roast them for 40-45 minutes.
  7. Arrange them on a large platter, add salt and pepper, and sprinkle parsley over the top.
  8. Enjoy!

CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES

Globs of chocolate everywhere.

Globs of chocolate everywhere.

Please note: These are not very pretty as I completely messed up melting the chocolate. Still edible, just not pretty.

24 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces of white chocolate chips
2 containers of strawberries

  1. Grab a baking sheet and layer it with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the semisweet chocolate in a glass bowl with the microwave OR in a saucepan.
  3. Dip a strawberry into melted chocolate, rolling it to coat all sides.
  4. Lay it on parchment paper.
  5. Repeat with all strawberries.
  6. Let chocolate harden on strawberries for 30 minutes in a cool area (I put mine in the freezer but you could put them in a garage or outside, if cold enough outside)
  7. Melt the white chocolate and using a butter knife, dip it into white chocolate and then drizzle designs over the dipped strawberries.
  8. You could also re-dip the strawberry into the white chocolate, to add another layer of yumminess.
  9. Decorate the remaining strawberries with the white chocolate.
  10. Let harden for 30 minutes as previous done in step 6.
  11. Serve them on a pretty stand! Or pack them up and give away.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

Ha. These were store bought. No way was I going to make cupcakes from scratch, along with frosting. The package I bought from the store INCLUDED frosting, so it was obviously the perfect buy.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Sorry for the long post, but there you have it. I think I might make those brussel sprouts as a traditional side dish every Christmas. It is fun how every family does their own traditions with meals. Mr. Speedy’s family has chili and cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve. Does your family have any traditional meals during the holidays??

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Sincerely,

Stamp-Crazed Lily

The best picture we have ever taken.

The best picture we have ever taken.

My Top 10 Gift ideas for HER

HER.

You know who I am talking about – that lady. Her could be your mother, girlfriend, crush, sister, best friend, teacher, or wife.

HER.

Here are my top 10 gifts for any HER in your life:

1. Burt’s Bees Lip Gloss: Or any Burt’s Bees lip product. It is all natural. It creates a smooth shine and healthy lips. All women wear chapstick, lip gloss, lip stick, or a combo of all three. We need this. It is an essential part of our daily routine. My friend Brittany mailed me this and it is always in my coat pocket.  Find it at CVS for $8.99. PERFECT STOCKING STUFFER.

This is THE BEST.

This is THE BEST.

2. Magazine Subscription: THIS IS SUCH A GOOD GIFT. You know what I love? Curling up a with a good magazine that I didn’t have to pay for. Does she like cooking? Home decor? Travel? Clothes? Sports? I look forward to finding my Self, Runner’s World, and Country Living in my mailbox every month. Get her subscription to a magazine- you can’t go wrong! It is like getting a present every month! Find a variety on Amazon for a range of prices… or just find the magazine directly and order.

YES. DROOL.

YES. DROOL.

3. Wine, this wine: This is just not any wine. This wine is made in Northern Michigan and it is hands down the BEST RIESLING I have ever had. It is sweet but not as sweet as a Moscato. It is smooth and airy and light. I love it. Buy her a bottle of this or an entire case and invite me over. Please. Find the Late Harvest Riesling at Black Star Farms, they can ship or have a list of stores that carry it (many in Detroit area). $15.00

This wine seriously taste like an explosion of all good things.

This wine seriously taste like an explosion of all good things.

This also makes a great hostess gift if you are attending a holiday party!

4. Home Decor OR Decor Surprise: This present only works if you live with the woman or are extremely close with them. Do not do this to a crush or teacher because it may freak them out. Re-arrange and re-decorate a space for them. It doesn’t have to be extreme and doesn’t have to cost much. This image of the bookshelf was one I rearranged- group colors and sizes together and add a pop of color with a new bowl, with fruit. Or buy a vase. A photograph. A few new pillows for the couch. We love and adore home decor. Seriously. These pillows from Kohls are a favorite, $64. I also love this cable knit pillow (it is like a big sweater!), for $69.  Love Nate Berkus line at Target and this starburst, $13.98. You can never go wrong with a classic Kate Spade vase, $50. I adore her Grace Avenue collection and it goes great with ANY room.

A little home decor is always a good gift.

A little home decor is always a good gift.

Mr. Speedy bought me this canvas art and I love it. What a perfect way to dress up the wall!

Mr. Speedy bought me this canvas art and I love it. What a perfect way to dress up the wall!

5. Gift Card to a Salon for WAXING: Or if she doesn’t get waxed, a nail salon or hair place will do. Every lady requires maintenance and let me tell you- I would be so happy to receive a gift towards getting my eyebrows waxed so I don’t have to worry about the expense of it all. A massage would work too. So many good options. Find out where she gets her business (nails, wax, hair cut, etc.) done and go grab a gift card!!!

Don't I just look like  a model?

Don’t I just look like a model?

6. Personalized Stationary: This goes along with the post on men gifts, but seriously, EVERYONE could use some high-end stationary for their personal correspondence. Or if the woman has a favorite flower, buy some with that on it. The choices are really endlessly. Include some stamps for extra bonus points. Order some from Paper Source, or these cute ones from NaomiLynn, $15.

Stationary!

Stationary!

7. A Getaway: Although pricey, this is easy peasy and means a lot. Book a weekend trip (or even just one night) somewhere to go. This is perfect for girlfriends, best friends, moms, or sisters. We love getaways. Find a picture of the person on vacation and write on the back “Merry Christmas- get ready for another trip because we are going X (name location) on X (name dates)!”. A great place in Northern Michigan where Mr. Speedy proposed but would be a fun trip for ANYONE, is the Inn at Bay Harbor. From $157. Or I took him for a night away to the Dearborn Inn (and we visited the museum across the street) which was a total blast, from $149. BE SURE TO GET BUFFET BREAKFAST.

Fate.

Fate.

8. Lavender Vanilla Pillow Mist: It is fact that the scent lavender helps relax and get into sleep mode. Pillow mist is probably one of the BEST THINGS EVER.  I use this before sleepy time, just spray a little on the pillows and climb in. Mr. Speedy doesn’t mind although it doesn’t make him sleepy…. never mind. What a great gift, find it at Bath and Body Works for only $10.

Buy this for anyone, they are sure to love it. Who doesn't like to relax and sleep???

Buy this for anyone, they are sure to love it. Who doesn’t like to relax and sleep???

9. The Pioneer Woman: A Year of Holidays (cookbook): The Pioneer Woman is one of my favorite blogs and she is an amazing cook…. and photographer. And she is hilarious. All of her cook books are stuffed full of rich and flavorful recipes, complete with easy steps and pictures. Perfect for any level of cook. She has three cook books out, but this latest one, A Year of Holidays, is geared around holiday foods. I love that- recipes for any occasion! Find it at Barnes & Noble, $20.99.

Love this cook book!

Love this cook book!

10. Solar-Powered Dancing Daisy: Mr. Speedy bought me one of these and it sits in my window at work and DANCES ALL DAY LONG and always brings a smile to my face. When the sun hits it directly, it dances to fast that the plastic pedals hit each other. It is crazy but it makes me laugh. And brightens my day. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this thing. Find it at a Dollar Store, $1. If you really want to be funny, buy a whole bunch. (ha, get it? Bunch?)

It dances in the sun! So dang cute!

It dances in the sun! So dang cute!

Other notable mentiones: soap from CerealFly – try XOXO scent, $4.50, a book on her hobby/passion, a red nail polish that is fast-drying – we rarely have time to wait for our nails to dry and we always need a good red color.

There is my little list of gifts for women… hope you enjoyed it and good luck with the rest of Christmas shopping! One more week and it’ll be here.

I am going to go put myself in direct sunlight now and see if it gets me to dance.

Sincerely,

Lily

Winner of Pretty Gift Giveaway & Sunday News

Big news of the day:

bayshore

I just signed up for the Bayshore Marathon, in an attempt to re-qualify for Boston. This means I will start training towards the end of January while simultaneously planning our wedding that will take place in March. (WHAT A PERFECT WAY TO STAY LEAN FOR THE BIG DAY 😮 !) This also means the honeymoon will involve a lot of running, since it is during crucial training time. This also means I will have to manage my time carefully because I am planning on coaching GOTR in the Spring. This also means I will be a wife. This also means my life will be completely different as it is now.

Basically, please pray for my sanity and legs. I  am a little tired just thinking about it but very excited.

running1

Now for the giveaway winner….

I just love the tree in the background. And yes, I planned that.

I just love the tree in the background. And yes, I planned that.

SO MANY LOVELY COMMENTS ABOUT CHRISTMAS. Loved them all. I love how so many people enjoy the time together with family and friends, and giving gifts, and the wintery-weather. I used a random number generator and the winner is:

randomnumberforgiftandreaaDo you like that chick? I got super creative with Word. ANYWAYS — HUGE CONGRATS TO ANDREA! She lives in AZ where it is sunny and beautiful and I would like to be transported there immediately. Andrea- enjoy the treats and thanks for reading!

On a completely unrelated note, I started a bookclub with some girls and one of the girls found these cute Kate Spade book totes –

THIS IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS TO READ BOOKS. TO USE THIS BAG.

THIS IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS TO READ BOOKS. TO USE THIS BAG.

They are from The Strand (here) and completely affordable and adorable. This bag literally is the best Christmas gift to myself and makes me slightly more excited to read. I can’t wait for our first meeting January. I am hosting and am planning a menu of lots of wine, conversation, and hummus. SO PUMPED.

Need a gift for a book lover? Buy them a tote!

HAPPY SUNDAY!

Sincerely,

Lily

Giveaway for Christmas: A Pretty Little Gift

Things I love about Christmas and the Holiday season –

The movie Love Actually
An excuse to hang large socks and stuff them full of random things
The way kids’ eyes light up when Santa’s name is mentioned
Giving – giving your time, giving gifts, giving into cookies
The way snow falls and how it really is silent
Kissing outside and the only thing that is warm are the lips meeting
Family visits and visiting family
Time off to spend time doing things you love
Getting lost in a good book while getting lost in the cushion of a good couch

And many more things.

So in the spirit of Christmas, and during this time of giving, I’m giving away to one lucky reader a little sweet gift from the fabulous store Catching Fireflies (if you are in metro-Detroit, check them out or if you live elsewhere, shop online!) :

I just love the tree in the background. And yes, I planned that.

I just love the tree in the background. And yes, I planned that.

First, a wall art sign that has quite a fantastic saying if I do say so myself:

How true is that? Love it.

How true is that? Love it.

A magnet with a fun and inspiring little reminder:

I just adore this cupcake.

I just adore this cupcake.

And for relaxation, a bath tea:

Ahhhhh I almost kept this for myself!

Ahhhhh I almost kept this for myself! And my nails are horrible looking. Ignore.

So, how can you win this sweet little package???

Simple. Just comment on this post, answering this question:

What is your favorite thing about the Christmas season?

Is it the weather? The random people doing good deeds. The presents (it is okay if you put this, I will not judge you). The eggnog (gross, once again I will not judge you). Tell me what really makes your heart smile. My favorite thing is seeing family and giving presents!

Giveaway ends on Friday the 13th at Midnight.

Winner will be announced on the blog! Good luck lovely friends xoxo

What a fun little grouping of things.

What a fun little grouping of things.

Sincerely,

Lily

How Mr. Speedy Tricked Me into Buying a Ladder

So this is happened this past weekend:

DSC_0073

Soooooo magical and pretty and heavenly scented.

Hello. Good thing we have cathedral ceilings.

Hello. Good thing we have cathedral ceilings.

I have a theory: Sometimes men want things and find loopholes to get them without the women noticing.

This very large real tree that smells o-so-beautiful also involved buying a very tall ladder, the latter being on Mr. Speedy’s wish list for a few months now.

For some reason, I have been denying Mr. Speedy to purchase a ladder. In my mind, we are renting a pretty condo and what do we ever need a ladder? We aren’t going on the roof and all the painting is done. There was that one time the smoke detector went bananas and we had to move the couch, balance a chair, and teeter on the top of it to reach the alarm… but is that one spasm of the alarm a reason to buy a big ladder?

No.

Mr. Speedy and 99% of the male population would say yes.

So we bought this very large Christmas tree and in order to decorate it, we had to get a ladder. I didn’t even second guess this need and just was like “Yes, of course. I can’t wait to put the star on top!” I even opened up a Home Depot credit card to get a discount.

It is only until now that I realized Mr. Speedy is drooling over the ladder and I am drooling over the pretty tree.
It is only now that I am having the thought that perhaps buying this tall tree was in the works all along, so that we just had to purchase a ladder.
It is only now that I am wondering how many other times has he tricked me?

Our stockings! And the tree.... is everywhere.

Our stockings! And the tree…. is everywhere.

I shall never know.

But I do know, that these are my favorite ornaments:

Crystal stars.

Crystal stars.

Old world maps!

Old world maps!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I really like how the wrapping paper matches the rug... I did not plan that.

I really like how the wrapping paper matches the rug… I did not plan that.

And I also know that Mr. Speedy felt the need for some wall art.

And he bought this wonderful warm colored canvas print of a town in Italy-

Italy. Oh. My. I love it.

Italy. Oh. My. I love it.

And I also know that Mr. Speedy felt the need to upgrade our dining room chairs, to these pretty tufted seats-

Loooooove them!

Loooooove them!

So really, I shouldn’t worry about the ladder.

I think he has more than made up for that manly-tricky purchase.

Our tree is simply stunning and any guest that sits will have a beautiful view of a large tree, Tuscany village and a happy, comfortable bee-hind in these chairs.

P.S. I will be sweeping up tree needles for the remainder of the year. This is my burden. This is my life.

Sincerely,

Lily

My Latest Obsession: Free, Beauitful, Delightful Printables

I have this friend.

Every time she walks near cards, stationary, or pretty paper, she stops. Swoons. Drools. And meticulously inspects every item, selecting at least three things to purchase. She loves to write letters. Personalized stationary is her second love, the first being her man. Pretty patterns lining envelopes are a slice of heaven. Birthday cards are selected months in advance, with the utmost thought towards the reciever.

This friend of mine happens to be planning a wedding and is struggling with selecting all the paper suites: invitations, menus, programs, rehersal dinner invites, table cards, place cards, etc. Struggling not out of lack of interest but more of lack of paring down her options. So many choices!

When her husband-to-be asked “What do you want as a wedding gift?” do you know what she said?

“New, beautiful stationary with my new, beautiful name.”

Clearly, snail mail is not dead.

Anyways, my friend recently discovered this thing on the en-ter-web called PRINTABLES.

FREE, BEAUITFUL, DELIGHTFUL PRINTABLES.

Holy moly, I am so excited – I mean, my friend, is so excited about these.

Reasons why you should use printables:

  • Planning a party? Need sweet invites – check out these. Or perhaps some tablemats – I love these lemon ones.
  • Baked some cookies and want to package them out but in a CUTE, MEMORABLE, THOUGHTFUL way? Bingo, use this.
  • Having a wedding or any kind of party? Martha Stewart has sooo many printables. Check out these cute favor tags.
  • Throwing a glitzy, girly party with some cocktails? This printable even has a menu for the signature drink. LOVE IT.
  • Football party? Tailgating? Show up with your food lookin’ like a million bucks with these paper products. It even includes recipes!
  • Well, looks like I’ll be having a Vintage Glam Holiday party. You are all invited.
  • HALLOWEEN. There are so many halloween printables. This is one of my favorites and makes me want to have a brood of children immediately and craft with them and feed them homemade popcorn while dressed up as a witch. Or as Jane Eyre (I doubt they’d understand the latter, so I’ll stick with the witch costume).

I made these this week, while I was suppose to be doing REAL WEDDING stuff, but this was way cool and fun:

Bottle tags!

Then I got ready for Christmas and made these cute gift tags:

In addition to scissors, I needed a one-hole punch to punch the circular hole at the top. Easy! AND THEY ARE SO SIMPLE AND CHIC.

I made some wedding things, for fun:

Then, I printed a really cute recipe book as a gift, complete with dividers:

Obviously, I am obsessed with printing things and cards and stationary and gift tags.

I mean, my friend.

My friend- she is obsessed.

DOES ANYONE KNOW OF ANY GOOD FREE PRINTABLE SITES THAT I MISSED?!?!

My top three – Love vs Design, Martha Stewart weddings, and HWTM.

Sincerely,

Stationary-Printables-Party-Planning Obsessed Lily

PS I think I might do a giveaway soon with printable things I made… because they are taking over my desk.